Former polygamist from P.A. speaks about Jeffs sentencing
A Prince Albert woman sees the life sentence for Warren Jeffs, the polygamist leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as a step in the right direction.
“It’s a step forward in some regards,” said Debbie Palmer, a former member of the church in Bountiful, B.C., who is now an activist.
On Tuesday, Jeffs was sentenced in a Texas courtroom to life in prison for sexually assaulting an underage follower whom he took as a bride. He also was handed a 20-year sentence for sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.
“I’m just happy to hear that he’s going to be in prison for the rest of his life," Palmer said.
"But unfortunately I’m afraid he still seems to be controlling and manipulating the people that follow him, from prison.”
Palmer, whose book Keep Sweet details her life and escape from the polygamist sect, now works to free others from the life she left behind.
Palmer said she knew Jeffs before his fast rise to power. In those times, there were underage marriages.
But she says that it's worse now.
"Since Warren Jeffs, there’s been some of the most horrendous cases of rape of children and trading female children back and forth across the border,” she said.
It was Jeffs’ response to the sentencing that concerns Palmer about how useful putting him in prison will actually be, she said.
She said he stood in a courtroom and said, “I am at peace.”
“That quote and image of him … they will take that and they’ll use it to prove that their prophet was prosecuted by the evil outside world,” Palmer said.
People will weep and become more determined to do what Jeffs tells them and do what they can to support him, she said.
“It’s really devastating to me that there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop him even though he is in prison,” Palmer said.
Getting people to come forward and talk about their experiences is very difficult, even to stop leaders of the sect, she said.
“Of course it was impossible, because there was so much terror and fear, that he managed to instil in people,” she said.
Edited by News Talk Radio’s Karin Yeske.